Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Bush's Snit-Fit on Irish TV

Remember last Friday that El Presidente was interviewed on Irish TV by Carole Coleman who pressed him with follow-up questions that he didn't like, and he got all testy?

Turns out that Bush had insisted on having the questions IN ADVANCE, which Carole Coleman dutifully supplied, so El Presidente knew exactly what she was going to ask. Kevin Drum comments on what then happened:

"It's unbelievable. We have a president who apparently feels uncomfortable doing an interview with a foreign journalist unless he knows beforehand what she's going to ask, and then behaves childishly when she actually follows up and insists on genuine answers to the prescripted questions instead of the usual talking point pabulum that the American press laps up. How dare she interrupt the president of the United States and demand real answers!"

Bush got so mad about the interview that an offer to make Laura Bush available for a separate session was withdrawn.

Farmers Can SO tell S*** from Shinola

The heart of Bush's red states is rural, and without the rural vote in 2000, El Presidente would not be El Presidente but rather a fake rancher in Crawford, Texas. So it was with some surprise that we awoke Monday morning to the story on National Public Radio of a poll taken in 17 "battleground" states of strictly rural voters which shows Bush's support there softening significantly. Oh, he would still win among rural voters, but by a dwindling margin, and if he doesn't win by a huge margin in rural areas, as he did in 2000, it's another sign that this particular ship of state is indeed taking on water.

The poll and its results are available on the website of the Center for Rural Strategies, our friends over in Whitesburg, Ky., who successfully opposed CBS's plans to air a reality show called "The Real Beverly Hillbillies." The Center for Rural Strategies is completely non-partisan and in fact hired a Republican to conduct the poll, Bill Greener, who sounded a note of alarm for Republicans in analyzing the poll results.

When Is a Draft Not a Draft?

When it's an "involuntary mobilization" of guys who've fulfilled their military obligation through the reserve program, but in whom the U.S. Army still has its hooks.

Reuters is reporting that the Pentagon will announce tomorrow that it intends to rope back into active service some 5,600 reservists who THOUGHT their obligations had been fulfilled. A defense department official told Reuters that while soldiers in the "Individual Ready Reserve" have served their voluntary obligation in the Army, they still can be mobilized involuntarily for several years after returning to civilian life.

In a notable understatement, Reuters said "The move ... represents the latest evidence of the strain being placed on the U.S. military, particularly the Army, by operations in [Afghanistan and Iraq]." They might have said "mismanagement" rather than "strain," but that would have been too obvious.

Monday, June 28, 2004

There's Absolutely No Excuse for Shopping at Wal-Mart

If I hadn't already taken a solemn vow never again to pass through the portals into a Wal-Mart store, I'd swear off shopping there all over again just on the strength of a judge's decision to allow a record-large class-action lawsuit to proceed on behalf of Wal-Mart's unequally paid female workers.

Start adding it up: Wal-Mart found to be exploiting illegal immigrant workers, even to the point of locking them in their stores overnight to prevent theft; Wal-Mart attempts to circumvent local government in Englewood, Calif., through a ballot initiative which would have freed it from city development rules; Wal-Mart routinely buys politicians, drives its competition out of business, and bullies town governments; Wal-Mart dangles jobs jobs jobs as a lure and pays poverty-level wages to people held on the part-time leash and pays women less as a store policy.

Yeah, right, I need to be giving them my money!

It 'pears that a lot of people weren't giving them any business in June, as the corporation has lowered its own forecast for sales growth.

Supreme Court to Bush: "You're NOT Emporer of the Universe"

The Supreme Court today put a serious crimp in El Presidente's argument that he should get to do whatever he wants because God is guiding his every action.

"The Bush administration contends that as 'enemy combatants,' the men being held at Guantanamo Bay since the Afghanistan war are not entitled to the usual rights of prisoners of war set out in the Geneva Conventions. Enemy combatants are also outside the constitutional protections for ordinary criminal suspects, the government has claimed. The administration argued that the president alone has authority to order their detention, and that courts have no business second-guessing that decision."

But today the Supremes refused to endorse that central claim of the White House: That the government has authority to seize and detain suspected terrorists or their protectors and indefinitely deny access to courts or lawyers while interrogating them. Foreign-born men held at Guantanamo can have their day in U.S. courts, the justices said.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the court has "made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens." Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the ACLU, called the rulings "a strong repudiation of the administration's argument that its actions in the war on terrorism are beyond the rule of law and unreviewable by American courts."

The court did back the administration in one important respect, ruling that President Bush has the authority to seize and hold a U.S. citizen, in this case Louisiana-born Yaser Esam Hamdi, as an alleged enemy combatant, BUT that Hamdi can use American courts to argue that he is being held illegally.

The court sidestepped a third major terrorism case, ruling that a lawsuit filed on behalf of detainee Jose Padilla improperly named Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld instead of the much lower-level military officer in charge of the Navy brig in South Carolina where Padilla has been held for more than two years. Padilla must refile a lawsuit challenging his detention in a lower court. But from the looks of this ruling today, it looks likely that the lower court is going to rule that Padilla has every right in the word to be heard by a judge.

All of these guys may be just the worst human beings alive. That's never been the issue. The issue has been the White House's contention that it can do whatever it wanted to do without any judge or any court interferring. The Supremes put an end to that particular arrogance today.

At least we can hope this is an end of that strain of mind virus.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Zell Went to Hell

Sen. Zell "I'm Not a Republican But I Play One on TV" Miller of Georgia has taken a high-profile speaker's slot at the Republican National Convention to continue bashing Democrats and slavering praise on El Presidente. Will we watch? No. Some car wrecks are just too painful to gaze upon.

But maybe the Dems need to line up Lee Iacocca to speak at the Democratic National Convention, since big-time businessman Iacocca, who supported George W. in 2000, has come out for Kerry. "Iacocca said he is changing sides because he was attracted to Kerry's economic plan, including his job creation proposals. He also said the presumptive Democratic nominee both understands change and will 'level' with the American people about how to adapt to that change."

We think Iacocca more than trumps the addled Miller.

Father, Forgive Me, For I Have Voted

Our favorite Catholic prelate, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, he who decided unilaterally that HE wouldn't give John Kerry communion should John Kerry ever by chance wind up in one of his pews, is still at it. "We always have to remember that it's objectively wrong to vote for a pro-choice politician," Burke told KMOX Radio. "People could be in ignorance of how serious this is. But once they understand and know this and then willingly do it, vote for a pro-choice candidate, then they need to confess that."

There won't be enough hours in the day to hear all those confessions.

Friday, June 25, 2004

The Great State of Paranoia

Did North Carolina suddenly transform into Albania while we were dozing? You'd think these six Republicans vying for the privilege of running against Mike Easley this fall were running to be governor of Tirana, so xenophobic have their public utterances become. They compete with one another to bash immigrants as the greatest present threat to the well-being of The Tarheel State.

Now Fern Shubert, the only woman in this group of gnomes, has put up a TV commercial that the Raleigh News & Observer says comes within a hair's breadth of blaming the 9/11 attacks on Gov. Easley for his lax treatment of illegal immigrants. We didn't know this, but evidently those 19 terrorists were nesting in North Carolina all along, coddled by our Governor, who showered them with valid North Carolina driver's licenses just so they could move undetected among us. The radio ad version of the TV spot makes the logic simple -- your run-of-the-mill North Carolina voter can't tell one dark-skin from another: "...help stop Mike Easley from helping illegal aliens and the terrorists who hide among them."

Has the "moderate" frontrunner Richard Vinroot passed up this immigrant-bashing? His campaign website offers no search engine, so can't be for sure, but a quick scan of press releases doesn't include one about installing machine-gun checkpoints on our borders (though he's happy to play the anti-gay-marriage trump card).

Do we recall talk earlier in the year that the N.C. GOP wanted to "reach out" to the Hispanic population of the state? Or was that just one of our frequent hallucinations (which our doctors tell us are untreatable, at least with legal drugs). But maybe they meant "reach out" to Hispanics after the primary, since we know a Republican needs the racist base to win the first leg.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

A Little Torture Will Get You a Federal Judgeship

We're learning more about Jay S. Bybee, the former Justice Department lawyer who wrote the notorious Aug. 2002 memo addressed to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales ... which asserted that El President is free under his authority as commander in chief to order torture, notwithstanding treaties and laws barring it.

The Mormon Bybee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and now presides in Las Vegas as a federal judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, to which lifetime job El Presidente appointed him, apparently in fine appreciation of his ability to tie tiny, legalistic knots on the president's cat o' nine tails.

For example, Bybee's memorandum defined torture only as pain like that accompanying "death, organ failure or the permanent impairment of a significant body function." Judge Bybee's memo went on to say torture is unlawful only if the infliction of pain is the offender's specific objective. "Even if the defendant knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent," he wrote.

In other words, dear saints, and since we KNOW that the objective of all interrogations is knowledge of the enemy, then ergo, no severe pain inflicted in the extraction of that knowledge can be torture, because torture was not the goal, only the means. Maybe it takes a Mormon to rack reason that severely (and a Methodist to run with it and then not only deny that he ran with it but fail to remember that he ever saw such a memorandum). Latter Day Saints? Latter Day Sophists!

Every time Bush now speaks on the torture issue, he's clearly following Bybee's legal advice, that is, saying blandly "this White House never ordered torture," when he knows very well that lawyer Bybee told him in the memo that what was being done was NOT torture as long as they called it something else, i.e., information extraction. "We didn't order torture; we ordered intelligence gathering. Therefore, I am still the Godliest president ever to occupy the Oval Office, and the Hand of God is guiding my every act."

Gag me with a hymnal!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Newest Watauga County Blog

Check out our newest local blog, "Stumpys Findings," and mark it, 'cause the author is one of my most avid tipsters and reads 14 times the stuff I ever see!

N.C. Billboard Industry Relief Act of 2004

A notoriously bad pro-billboard industry bill passed a N.C. Senate committee yesterday and will now go before the full Senate for approval. It would impose an impossible burden on municipalities that are trying to remove existing billboards from certain of its neighborhoods.

The current system now in place (which allowed Boone, for example, to remove & ban billboards years ago) allows local governments to "compensate" owners of those large signs by letting them keep them up for a few years before taking them down. This form of compensation (which doesn't involve actual tax dollars paid out) is called "amortization" and is based on the legal principal that a roadway sign is personal property and not real estate; therefore, ordering it down does not force a company to give up its private property but only move it somewhere else.

The new bill would force munipalities to pay off the billboard industry as much as five times the net annual income derived from any billboard. In the case of a large, double-sided sign, that could come to as much as $480,000. Clearly, this bill would end certain city beautification or sign regulation initiatives (and thank God Boone completed its ban of billboards years ago, before the industry bought itself a passle of state Senators to do its bidding).

When Do "Coattails" Become a Banana?

Every North Carolina Republican, practically, who's been on TV touting himself for office, practically, has uttered the name George W. Bush, oh, approximately a dozen times in a 30-second spot, the point being, we suppose, to ride what are perceived to be broad, smart coattails into office.

But here's a paragraph from the Raleigh News & Observer this a.m., in a story about new poll results showing Erskine Bowles' lead over Richard Burr in the Senate race WIDENING:

"North Carolinians' confidence in the economy and in President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq have slid in recent months, according to the new poll; so has Bush's popularity. While that might be hurting fellow Republican Burr at the moment, there's no telling whether that will remain so on election day in November."

"No telling." But we wonder if we might not detect, starting, oh, about now, slightly fewer mentions of El Presidente's name in Republican television spots. Virginia Foxx, we believe, mentions the president exactly once in her TV ad, saying she supports his policies. It's beginning to look like a majority of North Carolinians don't.

Monday, June 21, 2004

What Next in Iraq? Try CHAOS

The new Rolling Stone has a riveting panel discussion about "what went wrong in Iraq -- and where we can go from here," and the panel is not your usual anti-war suspects but rather guys -- all guys, natch! -- who supported the war going in but whose heads are actually not lodged in their lower intestines, so they can recognize FUBAR when it's plainly presented to them in all the glory that IS Bush's war.

A few choice excerpts (though I recommend clicking on the link above and reading the whole thing).

Gen. Anthony Zinni: We've had a year of disasters. The strategy going into Iraq was patently ridiculous -- this idea that we'd generate Jeffersonian democracy and plant the seed of freedom in the Middle East. The rationale was even worse: We grossly overstated the threat and cooked the books on the intelligence. Then we put on the ground a half-baked pickup team that has alienated the people and can't connect to viable leadership. [Zinni was commander in chief of Centcom, 1997-2000 & special envoy to the Middle East, 2002-2003]

Thomas P.M. Barnett: It was a major mistake for the Bush administration to say to potential allies, "If you're too big a pussy to show up for the war, we're not going to let you in on the peace or rehab process -- and don't expect any contracts." We had such a macho view of war that we completely miscalculated the dangers of peacekeeping. [Barnett was strategic adviser to the Defense Department, 2001-2003]

Fouad Ajami: Now we're a Johnny-come-lately for a U.N. resolution to internationalize the political process. You might call it deathbed multilateralism. [Ajami is director of Middle Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University]

Sen. Joseph Biden: I've been a senator through seven administrations, and this is by far the most divided one I've ever served with. The internal discord is rampant. It's not just Colin Powell, who has differed with Vice President Cheney at every turn. It isn't just Richard Clarke and the others on the intelligence team who have angrily defected. It's General Eric Shinseki, who was fired for telling the truth. It's Lawrence Lindsay, Bush's economic adviser, who was fired for saying the war was going to cost $200 billion. The price tag is even higher now, and still they submit a budget for 2005 without a single penny for Iraq. What in the hell is going on? [Biden is ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supported the war, and calls consistently for more troops in Iraq]

Zinni: To pull out now would be a tremendous defeat. It would accelerate the path to civil war and make us and the region extremely vulnerable. The boys aren't coming home anytime soon.

Barnett: The Bush team needs to eat crow and make the tough deals necessary to internationalize this. They need to call a summit meeting of the major powers, including Russia, China and India, and say, "We have a problem in Iraq. Our loss would be as big a loss for you -- economically and otherwise -- as for us. What will it take to get 10,000 Chinese troops, 10,000 Indian troops, 10,000 Russian troops? What do you want in return?" We know what the deals are. India would probably demand, for example, that we don't declare Pakistan a major ally. Russia wants full membership in NATO. China might ask us to stop planning a missile defense in northeast Asia.

Youssef Ibrahim: June 30th [target date for the supposed "turn-over" of Iraqi sovereignty] is the biggest joke around. There will still be 135,000 American soldiers in Iraq. We will pick a new governing council -- a whole bunch of new lackeys. A superambassador -- John Negroponte -- will command an embassy of 3,000 Americans. Every controversial thing that the new government does will look like Negroponte's fault. [Ibrahim was Middle Eastern correspondent for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal; is managing director of the Dubai-based Strategic Energy Investment Group]

Zinni: This is a key point. Everybody I know in this part of the world says you cannot let this become a religious war. You can't let this become Islam vs. the West. I fear that's what it's become. We're viewed as modern crusaders. We have our own mad mullahs in America -- the Jerry Falwells, the Pat Robertsons -- who criticize Islam. They are heard much louder over there than they are here.

Ibrahim: It's worse than that. Bush himself is seen to be a mad mullah. The president has repeatedly asserted that God is on our side in Iraq, that he's consulting with a "higher" father. The zealotry even infects the military. General William Boykin recently said, "My God is much bigger than their Allah" -- this was all over the Arab media. He was never fired or reprimanded for making that statement. Prisoners have given accounts of being forced to thank Jesus and denounce Islam. The perception in the Gulf, where I live, is that this administration is vehemently anti-Muslim. Like it or not, we are in a war with 2.1 billion Muslims.

Biden: I was in the Oval Office the other day, and the president asked me what I would do about resignations. I said, "Look, Mr. President, would I keep Rumsfeld? Absolutely not." And I turned to Vice President Cheney, who was there, and I said, "Mr. Vice President, I wouldn't keep you if it weren't constitutionally required." I turned back to the president and said, "Mr. President, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are bright guys, really patriotic, but they've been dead wrong on every major piece of advice they've given you. That's why I'd get rid of them, Mr. President -- not just Abu Ghraib." They said nothing. Just sat like big old bullfrogs on a log and looked at me.

Zinni: Halliburton is spending staggering sums of money building fortified workplaces. It's killing the American taxpayer, who's footing the bill. There are two bodyguards for every worker. For $100,000 a year, you've got a truck driver from West Virginia. If I'm an Iraqi, I say, "For that cost, you could hire ten of us as drivers. And if I'm getting a paycheck, I'll have a vested interest in that truck getting through." Even the way we do contracting makes no sense.

Ibrahim: I voted for Bush, but I'd sooner die than vote for him again. The neocons are vampires through which we have to drive a wooden stake. Neoconservatism must end as an ideology if you want America to recover its position as leader of the world.

Winning Friends & Influencing People -- Not!

We hear that things went bad at the North Carolina State Democratic Convention on Saturday, with the meeting suddenly adjourned in the middle of debate over a resolution advocating for industrial hemp. (When the world is going to hell in the Middle East, wrap yourself in hemp!) Presiding officer Jerry Meek suddenly called for a quorum and finding no quorum present, adjourned the meeting. (A quorum would be 51 counties, out of 100. Apparently, 48 answered "present.")

This means the party failed to approve any resolutions or a party platform.

The culprits, according to the current ownership of the Democratic Party in the state, are "those Kucinich people," specimens that evidently landed via spacecraft back in the winter sometime, who brought with them certain alien ideas. Like pure democracy.

The Republicans had their state convention a few weeks back and did their anti-democratic purge of Co-Speaker of the House Richard Morgan. Now the Democrats show that they're just as talented at running people off. Unfortunately, in this case, the people they're running off are the "newbies" to state politics who have been energized this year to get involved because of national campaigns to oust George W. Bush. They've marched under various banners and not just the Kucinich one. Some are Deaniacs. Some with buzz cuts and short fuses were big supporters of General Wesley Clarke. All of them have been about as welcomed by the state party as Mad Cow Disease. (The state party, incidentally and in violation of its own rules, endorsed John Edwards for president way back last winter. But it's evidently not disgraceful to ignore the rules when you're in charge!)

In responding to complaints about how he ran the Convention on Saturday, Jerry Meeks (who is First Vice Chair) wrote an e-mail in which he chided "the lack of knowledge" about party rules among the Kucinich people and "the height of disorganization" among the "progressives" at the convention. Message: You people don't know how to play OUR game. Therefore, we stopped the game.

Brilliant! The state party poohbahs do what they can to run off the very people who have the energy and the commitment to pull undecideds into our camp. Progressives, especially those many who had never ever been to a political convention before and who worked hard and got involved with their local county parties and ran as delegates, came away from Raleigh feeling railroaded, slighted, dissed. As one delegate from Greensboro wrote in an e-mail: "This is the sort of thing that discourages people like me from getting involved. I just want to get in there and work for peace, justice, clean environment, etc., but keep running into a huge mountain of entrenched party hacks who seem more interested in playing power games than instituting true change." And Jerry Meeks' response is basically "serves ya right for being new!"

Meeks emerged in the state party a couple of years ago as something of an insurgent himself, and we had high hopes for him ... blowing the cobwebs out of the corners in what is known in these parts as "The State Deadquarters." But the way Meeks handled "the Kucinich people" does not auger well. We NEED those people, we need their idealism and their commitment, just as we needed the Jerry Meeks we recall from two years ago.

But apparently, in North Carolina, where virtually all the Council of State are entrenched Democrat incumbents, there's a kind of clubby smugness among Democrat power brokers in the 27601 zip code area, a bland willingness to stampede newcomers over the nearest cliff, if they appear too liberal. What happens when the Republicans finally get their shit together and run moderates for Governor and the Council of State? Those entrenched Democrats start losing, and the state party might turn up sorry to have slammed the door on people who believe in democracy (even if they also have their quirks ... like advocating for industrial hemp). If the Democrats haven't got the skills to handle a few whole-earth advocates, I don't give 'em high marks for handling the scorched-earth denizens of the Republican Party.

A Word from "Anonymous"

You may be well aware that a new book critical of Bush's war is forthcoming, "Imperial Hubris: How the West is Losing the War on Terror." (Hubris is the Greek word for the kind of pride that becomes arrogant and thus attracts the negative attention of the gods.) The book was penned by a current "intelligence professional" who has chosen to remain anonymous, and his insider's knowledge of how Bush's so-called "war on terror" has been mismanaged is quite impressive -- according to early reports.

Here and here you can read a two-part interview with "Anonymous" conducted by Spencer Ackerman. The bottomline: El Presidente has blundered his way into a "perpetual, no-win war" with Islam. Yippee!

Franklin Graham: A Big Tool

Make that a gigantic tool. Ed Broyhill, one of the approximately 47 Republican men running against Virginia Foxx for the 5th District congressional seat, has a new TV spot on the air featuring Franklin Graham. Saw it last night and thought, "Wow, he got Franklin Graham to endorse him!"

But not so fast, as the News & Observer this a.m. reports that a spokesman for Graham is asking the Broyhill people to take the spot off the air, since they don't recall having endorsed anyone.

But get this: According to the N&O, Graham himself has not asked that the ad be stopped, so Broyhill is letting it run. Now it sounds like an endorsement.

Graham and Broyhill were filmed together at a YMCA camp opening in Wilkes County, which was precisely the second time they had ever even seen each other in person, though Broyhill refers to Graham in the ad as "my good friend." One more chance meeting and they'd evidently qualify as lovers.

Nathan Tabor, another of the 47 Republican men running against Virginia Foxx, called this pimping of Graham "dirty pool," since he was counting on the religious right, born-again, "I'm-more-pious-than-ten-of-you-put-together" vote.

No word from Virginia "I'm-Catholic-but-I-keep-it-quiet" Foxx.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

The Milquetoast of Human Kindness

Consider this line from the News & Observer's coverage of Saturday's state Democratic convention in Raleigh, where Senate candidate Erskine Bowles was the keynote speaker: "...his comments lacked a strongly partisan tone. In fact, he criticized political polarization in Washington...."

Yeah, Erskine set 'em on fire, if a wet noodle can be said to kindle a spark!

Erskine wants us to elect him so he can go to Washington and ... MAKE NICE!? Richard Burr is playing that game too. Only with Erskine, we're afraid it isn't play.

North Carolina Democrats, some of whom seem bent on becoming "Nice Republican Lite," need their own Howard Dean to help them redevelop a little calcium in their tired old bones.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

The President's Analyst

Dr. Justin Frank, director of psychiatry at George Washington University, is coming out with a book, "Bush On The Couch: Inside the Mind of the President" (thanks to Stumpy for the tip), wherein Frank sums up his diagnosis of El Presidente thusly: "Bush is an untreated ex-alcoholic with paranoid and megalomaniac tendencies."

As discussed by Capitol Hill Blue, this diagnosis includes an interesting discussion of Bush's very noticeable avoidance of funerals. Dr. Frank said, "President Bush has not attended a single funeral -- other than that of President Reagan. In my book I explore some possible reasons for that, whether or not it is 'presidential.' I am less interested in judging his behavior on political grounds than I am in thinking about its meaning both to him and to the rest of us. He has spent a lifetime of avoiding grief, starting with the death of his sister when he was 7 years old. His parents didn't help him with what must have been confusing and frightening feelings. He also has a history of evading responsibility and perhaps his not attending [military] funerals has to do with not wanting to see the damage his policies have wrought."

This analysis of a paranoid and megalomaniacal chief executive dovetails with other material already published here last week.

Friday, June 18, 2004

An Ass Becomes a Canary

What do you say when the head of Shell Oil Company starts worrying out loud about global warming? We heard about this a couple of days ago and found the story this a.m. Is it any kind of progress that the CEO of a major fossil-fuel conglomerate starts to agree in public that maybe we've signed our own death warrant by burning too much of his particular product? Not that he's about to stop selling that product! Only that he acknowledges the irony.

Reagan Junior Blasts Bush Again

Tonight on "Hardball" (7 p.m. on Channel 36 on local cable) young Ron Reagan will once again blast El Presidente as "no Ronald Reagan." (Advance word on his interview with Chris Matthews is up on Drudge.)

Southern Baptists Lick Bush

The Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., have been meeting in their annual convention this week in Indianapolis, and there to slip a little knock-out drug into their non-alcoholic drinks was Ralph Reed, morphed from top guy at the Christian Coalition into a top Reelect Bush/Cheney campaign official. Reed hosted a "pastors reception" next door to the convention site where he signed up these sheep/shepherds on pledge cards to push the limits of their tax-exempt statuses by becoming partisan cheerleaders to their congregations back home.

In defense of this corruption of religion for the short-term benefit of a pip-squeak politician, Dr. Jack Graham, the departing president of the denomination, told the New York Times that he believed the Bible called on Christians to support godly politicians.

And what constitutes a "godly politician" (letting go for the moment whether Holy Scripture actually says anything at all about "politicians" as opposed to heritary Kings, Emporers, and the odd Rich Man)? Apparently, for Dr. Graham and his fellow goobers in shark-skin suits, the mere assertion by a politician that he's "godly" is good enough for them. They ain't never heard a word about "by their fruit ye shall know them," or else they like some mighty queer-looking fruit. Who would Jesus torture, eh?

Senate Will Not Subpoena Ashcroft for Torture Documents

On a straight party-line vote yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-9 NOT to subpoena the Justice Department for access to some 23 memos, letters or reports from Sept. 25, 2001, through March of this year on topics that included the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and rules for interrogation.

"... the documents include a memo from Mr. Rumsfeld to Gen. James T. Hill, the senior officer of the Southern Command, dated April 2003 and titled, 'Coercive interrogation techniques that can be used with approval of the Defense Secretary.' Another memo dated Jan. 4, 2004, written by the top legal adviser to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior American commander in Iraq, and sent to military intelligence and police personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison, is titled, 'New plan to restrict Red Cross access to Abu Ghraib.' " (From the New York Times coverage.)

Judiciary Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) urged committee members to vote against the subpoena: "We should not reveal our interrogation techniques to our enemies," said Senator Hatch. "There must be some reasonable limits on what can and should be disclosed by the executive branch to Congress and the public about the war against terrorism."

There's nothing as frightening, apparently, as information, especially when it involves the unconstitutional use of force by an American government currently up for reelection.

Observing the willful ignorance of Orrin Hatch makes me think of Kathleen Turner eyeing William Hurt in "Body Heat" and observing: "You're not very smart, are you. I like that in a man." The Bush Justice Department certainly likes Orrin Hatch!

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Show Trials?

The Bush administration needed to do something -- and quick -- to prove that Abu Ghraib was an "aberration" committed by a "small handful" of weird people, so just minutes ago John Ashcroft was live on CNN announcing the first criminal indictment of a civilian CIA contractor -- a North Carolina boy, incidentally -- for the death of an Afghan prisoner. (Coverage in the News & Observer here.) No doubt David Passaro is one bad dude, but Ashcroft's repetition of the administration's line that these are the acts of isolated and self-motivated individuals and has nothing whatsoever to do with the "chain of command," let alone torture treatises penned in his very own Department of Justice -- is that kettle of fish not going to start stinking up the joint?

"The term show trial is most commonly used to describe a type of public trial in which the guilt of an accused has already been decided, and the only goal of the trial is to present the accusation and the verdict to the public .... The most flagrant cases were the Moscow Trials of the Great Purge time period of the Soviet Union. Not only the guilt of the defendants was predefined, the whole processes were frame-ups, the opinion of the public was formed by massive campaigns in newspapers and at numerous meetings. The trials themselves were carefully staged. If a defendant refused to 'cooperate', i.e., to admit a guilt, mostly fabricated, he was not put on trial, but excuted nevertheless." Definition of 'show trial' in "Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia."

Bush's War Gets Booed on the Right

Arnaud de Borchgrave (of all people!) published a strong editorial in yesterday's Washington Times (of all places!) suggesting in so many words that El Presidente had stepped on his own weenie so hard and so long in Iraq that recovery seems mite-nigh impossible, at least if this same El Presidente, along with his throbbing weenie, is reelected. In the Washington Times! (And thanks to Stumpy for the tip!) Take a look for yourself.

Camp Cropper

What's just beginning to surface publicly about OTHER military prisons in Iraq -- or "detainee facilities" -- seems likely to make Abu Ghraib look like Westglo Spa by comparison.

This morning there's news that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself gave the order to keep a certain Iraqi prisoner unlisted on the official rolls of another prison, mainly to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring his treatment, treatment which we also know violated the Geneva Convention, which is exactly why Rumsfeld needed to hide the guy and "other ghost detainees." "Ghosts," because there's no paper trail to prove they're anywhere, let alone in American custody, being subjected to the liberating experience of 21st Century American constitutional democracy.

"Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, the Army officer who in February investigated abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, criticized the practice of allowing ghost detainees there and at other detention centers as 'deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law.' "

The other prison in this instance is called "Camp Cropper," on the outskirts of Baghdad International Airport. It is said to contain "about 100 prisoners ... deemed to have the highest intelligence value."

Now, if our guys did what they did at Abu Ghraib to people who weren't even of "the highest intelligence value," can you imagine what's gone on at Camp Cropper. Well, yes, perhaps you can imagine it, aided not a little bit by recent photographic evidence, which is why Rumsfeld was issuing orders to keep the Red Cross from checking too closely into conditions at Camp Cropper, where "some prisoners had been held since June 2003 for nearly 23 hours a day in solitary confinement in small cells without sunlight, according to a report by the international Red Cross."

What we know so far is the merest tip of this particular ice berg. And if Rumsfeld & Co. have their way, we'll never know the extent of how they've trashed our constitution and international law in the name of "freedom" and God's Bush subsidiary on earth.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

God's Own

It's been clear for some time that the Rovians are running George W. for reelection as the only candidate sanctified by Jehovah Himself. Now, with Iraq not exactly a shining example of presidential epititude, it appears that the "God connection" is pretty much ALL they've got to run on, especially since polls continue to show that the American voting public isn't exactly buying the line that the economy is all better now.

Which accounts for El Presidente's asking the Vatican if it couldn't do something on his behalf, slap those American bishops around a little and withhold the communion cup from any limp-wristed Democratic types. And also accounts for Republicans in the U.S. House slipping a little something potentially useful into H.R. 4520, the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004, a bill that would eliminate some federal subsidies to manufacturers and cut corporate tax rates. The Republicans wanted to add a provision that would have allowed American preachers to actively campaign for political candidates without endangering the tax exempt status of their churches. No kidding.

Wow. For all his reputation for Divine Intervention in recent American political history, The Supreme Being sure seems to depend on the secret dealings of Republican law-makers to get the job done!

Luckily, however, Satan is not Chairman of the National Democratic Committee for nothing, so just last night (according to the Washington Post), at the final markup of H.R. 4520, the Bush/Cheney Preacher Empowerment Act of 2004 was removed from the bill:

"Watchdog groups -- including Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Interfaith Alliance and People for the American Way -- opposed the provision as a step toward dismantling the constitutional ban on state-sponsored religion. Some also called it a 'back-door' attempt to help reelect President Bush, whose campaign is focusing on churches as potential centers of support. But the proposal's fate was sealed when religious groups, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, also expressed strong reservations."

Good ole Southern Baptists, man! Maybe someone finally woke up to the implications of being George Bush's bitch.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Limbaugh on Divorce

Atrios has compiled some sound-bites here of what the drug-addicted hypocrite Rush Limbaugh has said about divorce. Including his own admissions about toying with cyber-sex with his third-wife-to-be while she was married to someone else.

Limbaugh lives in a $24-million beachfront mansion in Miami Beach (according to LewRockwell.com), which we suspect will NOT be on the block for divvying up in the divorce settlement. Don't you know that Wife # 3 must have been asked to sign a helluva pre-nup?

Torture Nation

Seymour Hersh recently spoke at the University of Chicago, and the notes taken by Rick Perlstein, by way of Brad DeLong's blog, will give you the willies. What this ace investigative reporter knows about but hasn't yet spilled to the world.

I generally can depend on the short hairs on my neck standing at attention at least once every morning as I read about the exploits of this presidency, and THIS did the trick!

Reelect Bush: "Not an Obnoxious Drunk Any Longer"

By now you've probably heard that the Great Actor's son, Ron Reagan, dissed El Presidente in remarks made at sunset in California last Friday ... or maybe you saw it on TV. (We were comatose on the floor by that point and completely missed the moment.)

You can read quotes from that here, along with a compilation of other stuff Ron Reagan has said about this president, most of it in the Key of Tart.

On Friday he said, "Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man. But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians -- wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. True, after he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency he came to believe that God had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference."

Jaws were said to have dropped.

But this is even better: when Shrub was running in 2000, Ron Reagan said of him: "What's his accomplishment? That he's no longer an obnoxious drunk?"

Wrapping El Presidente in the Reagan mantle is proving maybe more difficult than Karl Rove had anticipated. (And meanwhile, Rove has been distracted by his attempt to rouse the Catholic Church into a jihad against John Kerry.)

Many Pets Will Die!

We spouted off weeks ago about the (ahem) gentleman's agreement in the U.S. House of Representatives that no charges of wrong-doing had been brought to the House Ethics Committee against EITHER party since 1997, a truce that winked at corruption. After House Speaker Jim Wright and House Speaker Newt Gingrinch were both brought down by ethics complaints, the two parties decided it was best to let corruption flourish in silence, lest someone get the idea that shenanigans were happening up there. The chief beneficiary of this deaf, blind, and dumb policy has been Tom DeLay, who has been known to use the Department of Homeland Security as a private police force against Texas Democrats.

Well ... the "truce" is about to be broken. The Washington Post is publishing news that DeLay's fellow Texas congressman Rep. Chris Bell plans to file charges against DeLay with the House Ethics Committee. He accuses DeLay of soliciting campaign contributions in return for legislative favors, laundering illegal campaign contributions through a Texas political action committee, and improperly involving a federal agency in a Texas partisan matter (the aforementioned use of the Department of Homeland Security).

Well, DeLay and his boys are simply livid. A DeLay ally, Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), said Republicans "are going to have to respond in kind" by filing ethics charges against key Democrats. From now on, he said in an interview, it's a matter of "you kill my dog, I'll kill your cat." "Doolittle said he plans to file ethics charges against a prominent Democrat but would not name the target."

Let the cow chips fall! If there are corrupt Democrats who need flushing, flush away! But since the Republicans have been running that particular joint for almost a decade now, they bear the greater onus.

And it couldn't happen to a finer fella than DeLay.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Guess They're Off the Christmas Card List

A group of 26 former senior diplomats and military officials, several appointed to key positions by Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, are going public this Wednesday with a joint statement arguing that President George W. Bush has damaged America's national security and should be defeated in November. The group, which calls itself Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, will explicitly condemn Bush's foreign policy. (Advance word of this came out in the L.A. Times yesterday.)

Those signing the document include 20 former U.S. ambassadors, appointed by presidents of both parties, to countries including Israel, the former Soviet Union, and Saudi Arabia. Others are senior State Department officials from the Carter, Reagan, and Clinton administrations and former military leaders, including retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East under President Bush's father and former Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill A. McPeak.

A Good Day for Role Models

Tuned into Rush Limbaugh today, thinking we'd hear words of wisdom on the Sacred Institution of Marriage between one woman and one man, but as of 2:30 p.m., there had been nary a peep about it. Rush did have a good deal to say, however, about how amazingly NICE George W. Bush was to Bill Clinton today at the White House unveiling of portraits of both Bill and Hillary. (Apparently, any time El Presidente DOESN'T have a political enemy tortured these days is reason enough to marvel!) We happened to catch part of the White House ceremony on C-SPAN around 1 p.m., during a commercial break on Rush, and we heard Bill Clinton say that he hoped there would come a time when politics in America could get back to who was right and who was wrong on issues, instead of who was good and who was evil. The Secret Service visibly tensed up but did not swarm the former president and slam him to the parquet floor, so I guess they're getting positively moderate in the Bush administration.

And for those of you out there all too ready to hoot and holler at the pompous morality of Mr. Limbaugh, I caution you: apparently, the sacredness of marriage is seriously compromised when the woman in question was located on the Internet, or when the man in question is a right-wing talk-radio wind-bag with a drug problem. So give 'im a break!

Pentagon To Be Allowed To Spy on Us

Michael Isikoff is reporting in Newsweek that a secret provision got quietly slipped into a bill before Congress that could vastly expand the Pentagon's ability to gather intelligence inside the United States, including recruiting citizens as informants:

"Ever since the 1970s, when Army intel agents were caught snooping on antiwar protesters, military intel agencies have operated under tight restrictions inside the United States. But the new provision, approved in closed session last month by the Senate Intelligence Committee, would eliminate one big restriction: that they comply with the Privacy Act, a Watergate-era law that requires government officials seeking information from a resident to disclose who they are and what they want the information for. The CIA always has been exempt -- although by law it isn't supposed to operate inside the United States. The new provision would now extend the same exemption to Pentagon agencies such as the Defense Intelligence Agency -- so they can help track terrorists."

Next stop: a legal brief from the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice saying that torture of college students with "divergent" ideas isn't necessarily a bad thing? That will be in preparation of bringing back the draft, which is likely to get a few students angry and upset and "terroristic" in their thinking.

But don't worry. Haven't you heard that God is blessing this administration's every move?

From Torture Memo to the Federal Bench

The Washington Post this morning published the text of the now infamous August 1, 2002, legal opinion produced by the Department of Justice for the White House, saying that torture could be construed as legal behavior.

The tortured legal logic in the memorandum was signed by Jay S. Bybee, the head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the time in the Department of Justice. Bybee's signature, according to Dana Priest, gives the document additional authority, making it akin to a binding legal opinion on government policy on interrogations. "Bybee has since become a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals."

Well, at least the warped little mind they found to justify this regime of torture has been put where he can't do any further harm ... ON THE FEDERAL BENCH!

Did Ronald Reagan Torture People?

When the apprentice dons the robes of his absent master, in an attempt to appear bigger and more important, the exact opposite impression is often the result. Watching the growing determination among the Rovians to run George W. as a clone of Ronald Reagan, I flashed on a half-remembered scene in Walt Disney's "Snow White" -- Dopey dressed up in clothes waaaay too big for him and eager to seem like what he demonstrably isn't. Lesson to George W.: borrowed clothes make you look SMALLER, chum.

Elizabeth Bumiller has an interesting analysis this a.m. about the gambit:

"This past weekend, the White House Web site prominently featured a collection of Reagan remembrances and a photo essay of Mr. Bush at the funeral for the former president. The Bush campaign Web site went one better, offering a video of Mr. Reagan uttering his most famous lines -- 'These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc' -- interspersed with Mr. Bush's own words -- 'He had the confidence that comes with conviction, the strength that comes with character.' It was difficult to tell where the 40th president ended and the 43rd began, a blurring further promoted by Ken Mehlman, the president's campaign manager, who told an Iowa Republican Party convention on Saturday that Mr. Reagan's spirit lived on. 'Every time an American soldier, sailor, airman or marine risks his or her life to ensure our security and peace, Ronald Reagan will be there,' Mr. Mehlman said."

They can assert all day that George W. is really the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan, but it's a comparison more stark in its differences than its similarities. And frankly, it's pretty dopey.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Bush to Pope: "God Wants You To Help Me Win Reelection"

According to John L. Allen Jr., "the dean of Vatican journalists," El Presidente made a request of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state, while he was dropping in on the Pope last week: he wants the Vatican to tell its American bishops to get more actively involved in helping Bush win reelection. Citing an unnamed Vatican official, Mr. Allen wrote: "Bush said, 'Not all the American bishops are with me' on the cultural issues. The implication was that he hoped the Vatican would nudge them toward more explicit activism."

And what else might he have said? "We'll also make sure the IRS doesn't monkey around with your tax exempt status, when you turn your church into a Reelect Bush/Cheney subcommittee."

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Can Rush Limbaugh Spell D-I-V-O-R-C-E?

Well, gay marriage has claimed a high-profile Christian marriage, and a bunch of somebodys are gonna burn in hell for it. Rush Limbaugh and Marta, wife number 3, whom he met on the internet, are calling it quits, unable to hang together in Holy Matrimony against the spectre of gay wedding ceremonies creeping like a flesh-eating cancer across the otherwise sunny face of this Christian Nation Under God. When will this horror end?

Friday, June 11, 2004

The Reagan Death Bounce

Ruy Teixeira is summarizing Los Angeles Times polling in Ohio, Missouri, and Wisconsin conducted AFTER R. Reagan's passing, and the hoped-for "death bounce" for Bush has not materialized.

But the Rovians are dribbling that ball furiously down-court anyway. You'll have to find the Reelect Bush/Cheney website on your own, but it's worth noting that it's now a Ronald Reagan site with many more pictures of John Kerry (all unflattering, natch!) than of El Presidente. The strategy here appears to be: we can win Bush/Cheney if we run someone else.

Tony Blair's Labour Party Takes a Pasting

Early returns from local council elections in Great Britain are showing a high level of disapproval for Tony Blair over his coziness with George W. Bush. (These are local government elections, like town councils, and not parliamentary elections, which could actually throw Blair out of power.)

"Labour was down 159 seats; the main opposition Conservative Party had gained 77 seats; and Britain's third largest party, the Liberal Democrats -- which staked its campaign heavily on it being the only major party to oppose the war -- gained 68 seats."

Tony Blair's gonna end up as collateral damage in Bush's War. More's the pity.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Goin' Wiggy?

CapitolHillBlue, an interesting site that says it's produced by disgruntled old newspapermen and -women, has an interesting article up that claims its insights from unnamed White House aides who are speaking off the record about El Presidente's "erratic" behavior in Castle Bush. "In meetings with top aides and administration officials, the President goes from quoting the Bible in one breath to obscene tantrums against the media, Democrats and others that he classifies as 'enemies of the state.' "

"It reminds me of the Nixon days," says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. "Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That's the mood over there."

"In interviews with a number of White House staffers who were willing to talk off the record, a picture of an administration under siege has emerged, led by a man who declares his decisions to be 'God's will' and then tells aides to 'fuck over' anyone they consider to be an opponent of the administration."

We have noticed the heightened visibility of Attorney General John Ashcroft these days: "God may also be the reason ... Ashcroft, the administration's lightning rod because of his questionable actions that critics argue threaten freedoms granted by the Constitution, remains part of the power elite. West Wing staffers call Bush and Ashcroft 'the Blues Brothers' because 'they're on a mission from God.' "

The Blues Brothers? Naw. If there's even a grain of truth in this reporting, Bush reminds me more of Peter Ustinov playing Nero in 1951's "Quo Vadis"?

When a Great Democracy Behaves Like a Small Tyranny

As Josh Marshall says, how do you even comment on this stuff? To wit:

Reversing itself, the Army said Tuesday that a G.I. was discharged partly because of a head injury he suffered while posing as an uncooperative detainee during a training exercise at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Army had previously said Specialist Sean Baker's medical discharge in April was unrelated to the injury he received last year at the detention center, where the United States holds suspected terrorists.

Mr. Baker, 37, a former member of the 438th Military Police Company, said he played the role of an uncooperative prisoner and was beaten so badly by four American soldiers that he suffered a traumatic brain injury and seizures. He said the soldiers only stopped beating him when they realized he might be American.

Bruce Simpson, Mr. Baker's lawyer, said his client is considering a lawsuit.

Economy Not Helping Bush

Many news outlets are puzzling over the failure of Bush's poll numbers to rise over his handling of the economy. The Washington Post points out that "Bush's ratings have not just been impervious to good economic news; they have fallen with it. In April 2003, 52 percent of voters approved of his handling of the economy, although at that time payrolls had not pulled out of a skid that began in March 2001. By late May, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, the president's approval rating on the economy had slipped to 44 percent, with 54 percent disapproving. By then, virtually every economic indicator was heading skyward."

Bush's War -- and the lovely recognition that we are now the most powerful nation on earth practicing torture as official policy -- has soured many people, even Republicans. WaPo quotes a Republican in Alabama who gets it: "We're spending $150 billion on the war. That's what's hurting us."

"It all goes back to Iraq," said Steven Valerga, 50, a Republican in Martinez, Calif., who voted for Bush in 2000 but plans to vote for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) in November. "It's a drain on the economy, when there's so much needed elsewhere. My gosh, we didn't need to be there."

Bush's "Clear Skies" a Fraud

A research firm that the Bush administration hired to evaluate it's hilariously misnamed "Clear Skies" legislation delivered its report yesterday and found that El Presidente's plan would kill approximately 8,000 more people a year by means of air pollution than legislation introduced in the Senate by James Jeffords of Vermont. The research firm actually compared three competing pieces of legislation and declared Bush's the worst. You can read all about it here.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

The Little Turd in the White House

Saint Ronald's blunt son Ron Reagan, interviewed in Salon about the Bush administration's attempt to resurrect his father for political purposes:

"The Bush people have no right to speak for my father, particularly because of the position he's in now. Yes, some of the current policies are an extension of the '80s. But the overall thrust of this administration is not my father's -- these people are overly reaching, overly aggressive, overly secretive, and just plain corrupt. I don't trust these people."

And this: "My father crapped bigger ones than George Bush."

The Candidate as Ghoul

Boston Globe, on El Presidente's attempt to wrap himself in dead flesh:

"After three days of suspended political activity, the Bush campaign began openly incorporating Ronald Reagan's death into its reelection message yesterday, revamping its website to give Reagan a dominant role and distributing official campaign letters that invoke the former president."

Meanwhile, the homage to Ronnie doesn't go so far as to actually listen to the good sense of Nancy Reagan, who recently called on the president to allow stem-cell research. The White House has already rebuffed Nancy on that one, and this morning even Laura Pro-Choice Bush was in the news saying she can't go along with Mrs. Reagan either.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

New Gallup Poll Gives Edge to Kerry

Interesting poll, this, just out today. "The poll finds Kerry leading Bush in the presidential contest by 49% to 44% among registered voters, and 50% to 44% among likely voters."

More important are the figures for the "battleground" states. Kerry has whopping leads (20%) over Bush in the "blue states," those won by Gore in 2000 by more than 5 percentage points. Bush leads Kerry in the "red states," but by only four (measly) percentage points. The Gallup people have added another color category ... the "purple states," those won by either Gore or Bush in 2000 by margins of 5 points or less -- and there Kerry leads by 5 points, 49% to 44%. That's without Nader.

The potential Nader spoiler effect, however, needs to be factored in, since Gallup shows Nader currently pulling 7% in "red" and "purple" states and 8% in the "blue." Worrisome.

Though not as worrisome as those numbers overall should be for the Rovians! We note that a couple of weeks ago the "anger level" among voters about the Iraq War -- in an ABC/Washington Post poll -- had spiked up noticeably. Bush has lost support, and people are getting pissed off. Not so good, if you're El Presidente.

Come On! He Knows Seven Words!

Jorge Ramos, author of "The Latino Wave," this morning on C-SPAN:

"George W. Bush is the first president in the history of the United States who thinks he speaks Spanish."

The Hand-Maiden of Christ

Billmon is so good on this, I'm quoting him at length:


It's been pointed out to me (tip of the hat to Bernhard H.) that the team of lawyers who wrote the Pentagon's treatise on presidential torture powers [see previous posting below] was led by this woman: U.S. Air Force's General Counsel, Mary L. Walker.

Ms. Walker, it turns out, is a long-time Republican political appointee first brought to Washington during the Reagan administration to help oversee the looting of America's natural resources, um, that is, I mean, to serve as principal deputy in the environmental division at Ed Meese's Justice Department.

It also appears that Ms. Walker is a devout Christian -- much like her fellow Reagan alum and environmental despoiler, Interior Secretary James "I don't know how many generations we've got until the Lord returns" Watt. And she's the co-founder of a San Diego group called Professional Women's Fellowship, an offshoot of the Campus Crusade for Christ "dedicated to helping professionals find balance, focus and direction in life."

God knows, we all need balance, focus and direction in our lives -- and I'd be the last person to criticize Ms. Walker for looking for it in Jesus. As a devoted follower of John Lennon (bigger than Christ, but we won't dwell on that) I'm a firm believer in whatever gets you through the night. It's all right. It's all right.

But knowing what we now know about the subject matter of the Pentagon report, and the legal theories expounded therein, I do have to wonder how seriously Ms. Walker takes her Golden Rule.

At the very least, the report lends a curious overtone to some of the comments in this interview with Walker, which was published on the PWF web site:

Walker: "I wanted to be involved in policy development at the highest level, and lawyers in our society are often involved in shaping policy."

The report: After defining torture and other prohibited acts, the memo presents "legal doctrines ... that could render specific conduct, otherwise criminal, not unlawful."

Walker: "I can't divorce faith from success because God is the foundation for my life."

The report: "Good faith may be a complete defense" to a torture charge.

Walker: "My relationship with God and with others in the community of faith has been central in my life."

The report: "The infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture." It "must be of such a high level of intensity that the pain is difficult for the subject to endure."

Walker: "It helped to find someone who could mentor me and help me see my faith as relevant to the challenges of life and work."

The report: For involuntarily administered drugs or other psychological methods [to be considered torture], the "acts must penetrate to the core of an individual's ability to perceive the world around him."

Walker: "When God is the center of your life and everything you do revolves around His plans for you and the world, then that is when life really gets exciting."

The report: The executive branch [has] "sweeping" powers to act as it sees fit because "national security decisions require the unity in purpose and energy in action that characterize the presidency rather than Congress."

Walker: "It's a travesty to be in a place of strategic importance to the world as a business or political leader and not allow God to accomplish the truly significant through you."

The report: To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

And of course, I saved the best for last:

Walker: "Making moral decisions in the workplace where it is easy to go along and get along takes courage. It takes moral strength and courage to say, 'I'm not going to do this because I don't think it's the right thing to do."

The report: Officials could escape torture convictions by arguing that they were following superior orders, since such orders "may be inferred to be lawful" and are "disobeyed at the peril of the subordinate."

And so there you have it: Mary L. Walker -- Christian, Republican, Patriot, Torture Attorney.

Yanking the Chain of Command

The story-line out of the Bush administration -- that the only torture meted out to foreigners in the sacred War On Terror was performed by seven hillbillies at Abu Ghraib and had nothing to do with the chain of command -- that particular piece of fiction evaporated a little further this a.m. with the simultaneous publication of two different secret memos, one in the Washington Post, the second in the New York Times.

The WP story is built on a leaked Justice Department memo from August 2002 which opined that torturing suspected Al Qaeda prisoners abroad can be justified and that international rules against torture could be safely ignored as running counter to the president's sworn oath to protect the United States. "If a government employee were to torture a suspect in captivity, 'he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the Al Qaeda terrorist network,' said the memo .... It added that arguments centering on 'necessity and self-defense could provide justifications that would eliminate any criminal liability' later."

The memo was written after the CIA began detaining and interrogating suspected al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and elsewhere following 9/11.

This memo was subsequently used as justification in a March 2003 Pentagon report, the document that the NY Times outs this morning (actually the Wall Street Journal first reported its existence yesterday). The Pentagon document, which was prepared for the edification of Donald Rumsfeld (who later said he just had no idea that anything like Abu Ghraib could possibly be going on) went considerably further than the Justice Department memo. The lead from the Times story: "A team of administration lawyers concluded in a March 2003 legal memorandum that President Bush was not bound by either an international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal antitorture law because he had the authority as commander in chief to approve any technique needed to protect the nation's security. The memo ... also said that any executive branch officials, including those in the military, could be immune from domestic and international prohibitions against torture for a variety of reasons."

In other words, the decree came down from On High that you could pretty much do whatever you wanted to the hapless camel-driver picked up in an Army sweep, just as long as you don't kill the s.o.b., which apparently didn't stop them from killing a few of the s.o.b.s. And now all those legal calisthenics, contorting themselves into the opinion that anything American soldiers did to Arabs would be just fine, and that no American soldiers could be blamed for those deeds, so long as the s.o.b.s didn't actually die in American custody ... well, all of that appears to have gone under deep cover, while seven poor reservist slobs from Cumberland, Maryland, are put through show trials to prove what is exactly the opposite of the truth.

Makes us proud to be American. Makes us understand, finally, what the Republicans have meant all these years when they preached "personal responsibility."

As we approach the Apotheosis of the State Funeral, a question forms in our mind: What Would Ronald Reagan Do?

Monday, June 07, 2004

Comparisons are Odorous

Republicans who like this current president were fond of comparing him favorably, even before Saturday, to The Beloved Gipper. Hence, this quote from Bush's campaign manager: "In many ways, George W. Bush and the policies that he put forward stand on the shoulders of Ronald Reagan," Ken Mehlman said Sunday in discussing the connections between the two presidents. "Ronald Reagan was someone who believed and viewed the Soviet Union with moral clarity, who understood that peace came through strength and who believed at a time when a lot of people didn't agree with him that the key to prosperity in this country was to trust the American people."

We fully expected that sort of ceremonial conferring of the Reagan mantle on El Presidente. Never mind that the "moral clarity" of the Bush White House seems to hide a ruthlessness and secrecy that frightens a lot of people and that his "key to prosperity" seems to include giving all the money to the already rich, along with no bid contracts to corporations.

But then every network started playing all those clips of the Great Communicator, the speeches, the brilliant speeches, and it's suddenly inescapable how badly George W. Bush suffers by comparison. Watching Ronald Reagan tower so affably over the world during the '80s, and then squinting at the spectacle of Shrub right now groveling in the European weeds for a little respect ... we suddenly see in high relief just how pip-squeaky this new little guy is.

Now Adam Nagourney in the New York Times has Republican insiders saying the same thing, if not for attribution at least for print: " 'Reagan showed what high stature that a president can have -- and my fear is that Bush will look diminished by comparison,' said one Republican sympathetic to Mr. Bush, who did not want to be quoted by name criticizing the president. Another senior Republican expressed concern that by identifying too closely with Mr. Reagan, Mr. Bush risked running a campaign that looked to the past, which this adviser described as a recipe for a loss."

It now seems unlikely that Nancy Reagan will campaign for little Georgie, since she's become a born-again believer in stem-cell research, a topic the mullahs of the Religious Right won't let Bush discuss. The rumor, according to Adam Nagourney, is that Nancy won't even attend the Republican National Convention in September, thus in effect withholding by her absence the Reagan blessing.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

We're All Frozen Smiles!

Went to see "The Day After Tomorrow," mainly because we'd been promised that the Dick-Cheney-look-alike fictional vice president in the film gets flash frozen. Not true. It's the clueless President of the United States who gets flash frozen, only the sequence got cut out of the final print. Durn it!

The VP character in the film, aside from looking remarkably like Dick Cheney, also acts remarkably like Dick Cheney, brusquely refusing to listen to anything that doesn't reinforce his world view. Which makes the ending a colossal out-of-character groaner. In the final moments of the movie, the Vice President apologizes for being so stubbornly short-sighted about the fragility of the environment. While everything else in "The Day After Tomorrow" is so totally, completely, abjectly believeable (including a 50-foot ocean swell that swamps Manhattan but leaves the Statue of Liberty standing), that apology is just too out there!

Back in what passes for everyday reality, Cheney has been seemingly unleashed this year from his semi-permanent protective custody to make a series of up-is-down speeches which David Sirota recently discussed in the pages of In These Times: "His judgment is so severely impaired that he relies on Fox for facts, Wal-Mart for economics, Halliburton for ethics and Don Rumsfeld for security. Cheney's psychological profile has become suspiciously similar to your 'crazy Uncle Ned' -- a man you don't want anywhere near your family. And yet, just one heartbeat separates Uncle Ned from all of our families."

(Cheney last month told thousands of Republican Party loyalists that he "ends up spending a lot of time watching Fox News, because they're more accurate." And if you've finished doubling up over that one, try his extended take on the beauty that is Wal-Mart (via Sirota): Cheney "cited the corporation as 'one of our nation's best companies,' ignoring its poverty-level wages, mistreatment of workers and repeated violations of environmental law. He claimed the company 'exemplifies some of the very best qualities in our country -- hard work, the spirit of enterprise, fair dealing and integrity.' He failed to mention the 60 federal complaints against the company for workplace violations, Wal-Mart's decisions to lock workers into stores and charges that it doctored hourly employees' time records in order to skimp on wages. Instead, he parroted the Wal-Mart executives, the same ones who are bankrolling the Bush-Cheney campaign, and called for 'litigation reform,' saying the problem afflicting America is pesky workers who have the nerve to challenge corporate malfeasance in court.")

Where is flash-freezing when you really need it?

Creepy Is as Creepy Does

Here is the verbatim text (thanks to Irmaly!) of the Vernon Robinson radio spot that is playing on our own local WXIT News Talk 1200 and which got pulled from WSJS in Winston-Salem (over the technicality that its last line was in Spanish):

JOVIAL: Vernon Robinson, conservative.

ROD STERLING: The aliens are here, but they didn't come in a spaceship. They came across our unguarded Mexican border by the millions.

CREEPY: Illegally.

ROD STERLING: They filled our criminal court rooms and invaded our schools. They sponge off the American taxpayer by clogging our welfare lines and our hospital emergency rooms. They've even taken over the DMV. These aliens commit heinous crimes against us like Maximiliano Esparza who raped a nun and strangled her with her own rosary.

CREEPY: Illegal.

ROD STERLING: They commit crimes, but won't commit to learn our language.

CREEPY: Illegal aliens.

ROD STERLING: You walk into a McDonald's restaurant to order a Big Mac and find to your horror that the employees don't speak English.

CREEPY: Illegals.

ROD STERLING: You may be in the heart of America, but you feel as though you are in ... the Twilight Zone.

JOVIAL: Vernon Robinson will secure our borders, cut off the welfare payments, and once and for all make English our official language. Press one for English? NO! Vote Vernon Robinson for English!

VERNON ROBINSON: I'm Vernon Robinson and I approve this mess...

SPANISH: Yo gringo, this episode of the Twilight Zone was paid for by Vernon Robinson for Congress [in Spanish].

Friday, June 04, 2004

Planned Parenthood Prez Criticizes Kerry

This came out on the AP wire on Wednesday but has received scant attention.

Gloria Feldt of Planned Parenthood, the abortion rights group that has already endorsed Kerry in the presidential race, says he is getting bad advice from somebody on the issue of women's rights. Kerry had told the Associated Press in an interview last month that he would consider abortion opponents for lower court judgeships, though he pledged to protect the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal.

Since, as a senator, Kerry has always been pro-choice, Feldt read that interview as nervous waffling on the candidate's part (understandable perhaps, since a handful of Republican operatives otherwise known as Bishops of the Church were mounting a crusade to deny Holy Communion to the man and to every Catholic who might vote for him).

"I think John Kerry understands viscerally reproductive rights as being related to women's human rights globally," Feldt said. "But he's got to come up with some better language to talk about it, and I think he's being poorly advised, poorly served by some of his advisers at the moment."

She said Kerry, like Democrat Al Gore in 2000, has become overly cautious when it comes to reproductive rights and would be better served by voters come November if he would talk more forcefully about the subject and set out a clearer agenda on everything from birth control to sex education.

"I think when a candidate has a set of beliefs, even if a voter doesn't agree with that set of beliefs, they have more respect for a candidate. So I'm hoping that Kerry will learn that as he goes along. He's certainly always been strong in his previous races, so I think he'll come to his senses," Feldt said.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Rats Jumping Ship?

This is getting hard to keep up with. George Tenet is resigning as CIA Director for "personal reasons." Perhaps he's just taking Al Gore's advice from last week, that he and several others in The Most Christian Administration in U.S. History should resign.

George Tenet is so going to get a book deal out of this! But will he tell all, 'bout how him and Jesus Christ used to meet every single morning with George W. Bush in the Oval Office (while Ahmad Chalabi was forlornly stuck out on a rope line somewhere, trying vainly to catch El Presidente's eye)?

Bush KNEW, Sez Source

Capitol Hill Blues: "Bush Knew About Leak of CIA Operative's Name."

God's Choice for President Lawyers Up

The question is, Why would the most moral president in the history of the universe, the man who can't remember ever making a mistake, need a lawyer???

The name of the attorney-at-law-on-deck at the White House is Jim Sharp, and we'll know more about him anon. (And if you don't know what the hell this is all about, the link in this graph will give you a compressed summary of the background.) Mike Allen in the Washington Post says Sharp is a former assistant U.S. attorney and heads his own firm in Washington, D.C. Allen quotes Joseph E. diGenova, a former U.S. attorney who worked with Sharp as a young prosecutor ... says Sharp is known for his litigation skills. DiGenova called Sharp "a brilliant tactician who is very persuasive" and said he is "folksy like a fox."

"Nearer My Litigator, To Thee"?

"Honk If You're Lawyered Up & Believe in Jesus"?

Wonkette said, "It's really hard to seem like an evil-fighting man of the people when you've got a criminal attorney on retainer."

Meanwhile, the New York Times has gotten hold of an e-mail the Bush/Cheney campaign sent en masse to church members in Pennsylvania, asking them to turn their houses of worship into campaign centrals on behalf of The Biggest Born-Again President in Our Nation's History. The Pennsylvania e-mail went to members of 1,600 churches in just that one state, suggesting that there is a "vast" nationwide effort underway by the Rovians to make the churches political hand-maidens, thus incidentally endangering their tax exempt status.

In a statement, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, a liberal group, called the effort "an astonishing abuse of religion" and "the rawest form of manipulation of religion for partisan gain." But he's a liberal, so we've got his number.

Also meanwhile, we get this other headline about The Most Christian Presidency Since the Cooling of the Earth's Crust: "Polygraph Testing Starts at Pentagon in Chalabi Inquiry."

And this: Time magazine has obtained evidence that Vice President/Acting President Dick Cheney "coordinated" the multibillion-dollar Halliburton no-bid contract in Iraq and then told Tim Russert last September that "of course" he had NOTHING whatsoever to do with that contract.

"God Is My Co-Pilot, But Halliburton Bought the Plane"?

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

CBS-News on a Friggin' Roll

Was it a mirage, the lead story we witnessed tonight on the CBS Evening News? That El Presidente has retained an outside lawyer to represent him in the case of the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. It was RIGHT THERE on my TV, but there's not a peep about it so far on the CBS website.

Though there is plenty of other stuff ... like the now-notorious Enron tapes the network broke last night, of company traders talking about the way they were f***king California (their term, not mine) by manipulating energy prices.

Or the new FBI investigation inside the Pentagon. Which "drunk" fool told alleged Iranian double-agent Ahmad Chalabi that the U.S. had cracked the Iranian code and was intercepting and reading all their secret communications, which Chalabi allegedly then told an Iranian agent in Baghdad, who then promptly wired the news to Tehran, using the same code that had just been cracked by the U.S. That cat got completely out of the bag. And some neo-con's butt has GOT to be in a tight crack over that!

Sometimes it's too much to take in at once, the crashing waves of news about this mendacious administration and all its deeds. Meanwhile, Michael Moore's award-winning "Fahrenheit 911," a documentary on that very subject, has gotten an American distributor and will hit theaters on June 25th.

Herseth Wins in South Dakota

When we finally went to bed last night, Democrat Stephanie Herseth's initial lead of 6 percentage points over Republican challenger Larry Diedrich in the special South Dakota U.S. House election had shrunk to a paper-thin margin, but we were relieved to wake up this morning to find she eked out a 51-49 win. The margin between Ds & Rs in the U.S. House has thus shrunk to just 11 seats now that the Ds need to win to take back control of that body.

Meanwhile, according to the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal, since Diedrich will be running against Herseth again in November, he will simply keep his campaign up, slinging mud, from right now through November 2nd. He got a lot of big-name Republican help prior to yesterday -- including a fundraiser hosted by Karl Rove and a visit to the state by Katherine Harris (of Florida 2000 fame) -- and we would guess that even bigger "stars" will be coming to South Dakota to try to recover from the embarrassment ... yet another Democrat elected in a solidly Republican state under the leadership of El Presidente (the first was Ben Chandler in Kentucky earlier this year). The Republican big guns will be swarming like cicadas to unseat both Helseth and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

In Alabama, God Heads for the Mall

You'll fondly recall Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, expelled from office last year for refusing to remove a 5,300-pound monument to the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court building. His supporters immediately launched a jihad against his fellow judges, challenging four of them in Republican primaries that concluded yesterday.

Three of the incumbents easily defeated the jihadists. The fourth, Associate Justice Jean Brown, was narrowly defeated (51 to 49 percent) by former Moore aide Tom Parker.

From the Birmingham News: "Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, said Tuesday's results showed that Moore has political clout, but not as much as his supporters would like. 'A powerhouse would have gotten three or four of his candidates elected,' Sabato said. 'But he did clearly help his close aide to win the highest profile election for the Supreme Court. Is Moore a one-issue wonder who will fade in time? We'll have to wait until 2006 to find that out.' "

According to the AP, "The GOP's business wing had battled to fend off social conservatives eager to keep Moore's fight alive."

Bottomline in Alabama: battling over the Ten Commandments in public buildings is bad for business.

Du Bist Ein Klugscheisser!

Vernon Robinson, the prima donna Winston-Salem councilman and rival of Virginia Foxx's for the 5th District Republican nomination for Congress, put a mean little radio ad up on WSJS-AM that made the station management so nervous that they pulled the ad and asked for a ruling from the FEC.

The ad was in English, attacking relaxed immigration policies for Hispanics, but ended with a disclaimer in Spanish. A manager at the station had to enlist a Spanish-speaker to decipher the message: "Yo, Gringo! This episode of 'The Twilight Zone' was paid for by Robinson for Congress."

Robinson helpfully explained to the News & Observer why he did that: "Robinson said he wanted the last sentence in Spanish to demonstrate the dislocation that English-speakers feel when they encounter people who don't speak the language. 'It would be easier to understand if it is in English,' he said. 'That's why we should make English the official language of the United States.' "

As it would be far easier for US to understand Robinson, if he only had an ounce of humanity somewhere in HIS makeup.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Ms. Congeniality

Flash! The Watauga Democrat actually published yesterday something about State Senator Virginia Foxx that wasn't written and handed in by Virginia Foxx's flack ... that is, the truth about her effectiveness in the state senate, where she's ranked 33rd out of 50 by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.

Here's her quote given to reporter Scott Nicholson in response to her C-minus ranking: "I try to stick to my philosophy of less government and fewer regulations," she said. "I'm not going along to get along. Those with higher rankings try to get along with Democrats. I don't try to not get along, I just have strong beliefs."

Foxx said her beliefs include representing the party with which she's registered and following its principles and platforms.

We know they can't wait to get her in Washington!

Meanwhile, poor Gene Wilson. He ranked 107th for effectiveness among N.C. State House members ... out of 119. Always rising to lowered expectations.

The Cautious Kerry

We don't always agree with the analysis of Ruy Teixeira, but on the issue of Kerry's cautiousness as a campaigner we are in foot-stompin' agreement.

Concentrating on Bush's blunders in Iraq has a certain logic for building a "fire-the-incumbent" sentiment among swing voters. Problem is, says Teixeira, that approach doesn't automatically translate into "hire the challenger to correct the incumbent's blunders," if the challenger has no clear vision of how to get out of this mess.

Bush's answer for the Abu Ghraib revelations? Tear down the prison and give a huge pile of money to private contractors to build another one in its place, which can be run by exactly the same people with the same policies as the first one. Great solution, no?

Kerry's solution? We're not sure.

Teixeira admits that maybe NOT knowing what Kerry would actually do with Bush's morass is his best strategy: "The theory is that anything as specific as an exit strategy on Kerry's part would shift the political conversation away from the actually-existing mess in Iraq and toward discussion of Kerry's strategy and whatever Bush's counter to that strategy would be. That would be bad since that would interfere with hanging the whole Iraq mess around Bush's neck and forcing him to 'own it,' as the expression goes."

BUT ... Teixeira knows there are TWO steps in moving the electorate your way in a presidential contest: "First, voters have to decide they're interested in firing the incumbent; then they have to decide that the challenger is a good alternative to the incumbent. Clearly, the [Kerry] cautious approach fits well into the first part of the process -- as voters are getting convinced the incumbent needs to go, why confuse them with a lot of 'bold' ideas from the challenger? Let the voters think long and hard about how bad the incumbent is, not the detailed plans of the challenger."

Teixeira doesn't grapple at all with what has become the strange, twisted logic of El Presidente's "reelect me!" strategy ... which is, "Since I got us INTO this mind-boggling mess of a failed foreign policy, won't I be the best one to keep wading us through the quagmire?" In other words, Bush hasn't got a detailed plan to get us out EITHER. So it wouldn't be the first time the American voter decided not to change nags in the middle of a cesspool.

Republican In-Fighting in Congress

Janet Hook of the Los Angeles Times writes about the deepening split among Republicans in the U.S. Congress over the federal budget ... between those (especially in the House) who have discovered the euphoria of huge deficit spending and principally four Republican senators who say "we've got to pay for all this spending" -- John McCain of Arizona, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island.

And it's gotten nasty, with Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert recently trashing John McCain in terms that remind us of the recent North Carolina Republican Party's purging of state house co-speaker Robert Morgan. They don't even have enough sense to practice the first rule of Fight Club: that there IS no Fight Club.

Don't the angels weep when Republicans kick each other in the shins? So many angels, so many tears!

The party that prided itself on NOT being tax-and-spenders ends up with all the reins of power and coincidentally drives us into a fiscal ditch the likes of which we ain't seen before. The only people getting rich were already rich before all this started, or else they're no-bid contractors rebuilding the Glorious Democratic Republic of Iraq.